Smoke rose slowly in the distance, black turning to orange in the early light of morning. Two more houses had burned last night. This last one even closer to theirs, less than a block away. The Anders’ house? She couldn’t be sure.
Eve took a bottle of water from the crate, taking the smallest of sips before replacing the top and placing it carefully back in its place. Staring at the stacks of bottled water piled high in the corner of the garage she regretted having teased Jared so much. She’d called him paranoid, a conspiracy theorist, each and every time he’d come back from the shops, adding to the modest stockpiles of water, dried food and tinned goods.
Now, as she heard the rumblings in her stomach, as she reached for the tin of tunafish, she was grateful for his preparedness.
They had food and water for two weeks. Perhaps three. Though Eve knew it was only a matter of time before people came. Looters. They were everywhere. Still, for the moment, they were home, they had food. They were safe. Even Cassie’s fever had broken, just as Jared said it would.
But how long could they hold out? Jared kept up his assurances. It couldn’t be much longer, that’s what he kept saying. The power would come back. It had to. He seemed so sure—and he’d been right about Cassie’s fever, hadn’t he? Couldn’t she trust him in this?
No, she couldn’t.
Jared was an optimist. It was why she loved him. But she, Eve, was the practical one. Jared might believe the power would come back, that help was on its way, that the government was working diligently to restore services.
But Eve knew better.
At least, she feared she did. Dreaded it. And the longer the power stayed off, the more days that past with no official word, no explanation of why any of this had happened, the more Eve feared she knew exactly the reason why.
But, no…it couldn’t be.
Could it? They wouldn’t. It was unthinkable.
Eve felt the familiar pang of guilt. After all these years together Jared knew so little about her. She was glad that he wasn’t the kind to press and pry, though she hated keeping secrets from him. It was only natural he would ask questions, and when he did she would remind him she wasn’t permitted to speak of the details regarding her work at the institute. “Classified, darling,” she would say with a wink. Jared would give a disappointed sigh, but then he would nod and smile, his hands raised in submission. And on those nights when his curiosity got the better of him, when he might ask one question too many, Eve…well, she had her ways of distracting him and changing the subject.
Eve cursed as she reached once again for the garage light switch. Nothing. Nothing worked at all. Not the lights, not the water, not even the batteries from the solar generator worked. Even the face of her wrist watch, powered from the heat of her own body, stared blankly back at her, though she kept tapping it, half expecting it to come back online, reconnecting her once more to the world. If only she could get a connection, get some word, some confirmation of what was happening.
But someone knew. That signal came again last night.
Stepping carefully in the dark, Eve moved toward the workbench and the spot where she last remembered seeing the thing she sought. Kneeling, groping with an outstretched hand, Eve rummaged amongst the piles of tools, old computer parts and discarded telephones, all doubly-useless now, and cursed herself for not having the foresight to bring a candle.
“What are you looking for?”
Startled, Eve promptly banged her head on the underside of the workbench. Rubbing at the bruise, she turned slowly and faced Jared. She didn’t have to answer. He saw what she held in her hand.
Yellowed, crinkled, torn in places, the ink faded, Eve tried to hold the old paper roadmap behind her back, hiding it from Jared, but it was already too late. He reached around and snatched it from her. Eve let it go, rather than letting the thing be torn. It was a miracle they even still had such a thing, that it hadn’t been recycled long ago—a paper map, a relic from another era, printed decades ago. But it was something she desperately needed. The GPS in her contact lenses hadn’t functioned since the outage. If she was going to find her way toward the signal light, she needed that map. And if she was right, if what she feared was true, she knew exactly where that signal was coming from and who was sending it.
She reached for it, but Jared shook his head.
“Cassie’s still not ready. She needs rest. Perhaps in a week…”
Slowly, Eve looked up and her eyes met Jared’s.
“Cassie’s not going,” Eve said. “And neither are you. I’m going to find that signal. I’m going to find some answers. Get some help.”
For more about Cary Caffrey, click here.
For more about Cary Caffrey, click here.